At some point, most of us will experience the death of a loved one. The grief that comes with this loss seems unbearable and all consuming. At grief’s most intense point, it’s really hard to imagine that your life will ever be “normal” again. You may even feel like you are going crazy; hearing voices, seeing things, or even becoming attached to odd inanimate objects. The abyss of sadness can leave you with insomnia or disturbing dreams, trouble eating, nausea, muscle weakness and an utter lack of motivation to do just about anything. Even more confusing, it’s possible to oscillate between intense anguish and coma-like numbness. Grief can make you act totally out of character, as if you are no longer the person you thought you were. It’s as if nothing makes sense anymore. Embarrassment, shame and anger are not uncommon. In turn, you may isolate yourself.
How long does grief last?
There is no standard answer. Grief lasts as long as it lasts. There is no prescribed timeline. Just as each person is unique, so is their bereavement experience. A lot of it depends on your culture, maturity, religious beliefs, age, mental health, and how well prepared you were for the death.
How do you grieve properly?
You may have been told this by some well wishers in the aftermath of a loss of a loved one. “Make sure you take time to grieve properly.” What does this mean?? I have no idea, honestly. There is no “right” way to mourn, and although pop psychology has furthered the idea of the “seven stages of loss,” not everyone will experience all of the phases or may skip through them out-of-order.
Does grief ever go away?
I like to use the analogy that grief is the period before the wound becomes a scar. It is exceptionally painful but does eventually scab over. Now it’s not crippling agony, but it still really hurts if you pick at it. You try not to, but sometimes you just can’t help it. This goes on until eventually the scab falls off and you’re left with a shiny, sensitive scar. That mark of fresh, new skin that reminds you of how badly you were hurt. But it’s also a reminder of your ability to heal. You can run your finger over it without crying and sometimes, there’s a faint smile of remembrances. So, no I don’t think that grief every really goes away. It just morphs into something that’s not excruciatingly painful every day.
We weren’t even close. Why do I feel this way?
Your relationship with the person you lost was less than ideal. Maybe they were abusive, in prison, battling addiction, infidelity or some other issue that drove you away from them. Now they are dead and you feel ambivalent. Yet you feel guilty to admit this because it’s taboo to speak ill of the dead. So you say nothing. And in doing so, the internal conflict grows. You feel nothing and it makes you feel guilty. Your pain is intensely private because you believe you have nowhere to discuss your conflicting feelings.
Can you experience grief over something other than death?
Yes, you can. Anytime you experience a loss, you are susceptible to feelings of grief. This can be related to a move, the ending of a significant relationship, the loss of a job, etc.
What to do?
If you are stuck in the fog of grief and would like to have a guide help you navigate your way out, please contact us. We’re here to help you. There is no “right” time to seek help. Whether your loss occurred recently or sometime in the past, therapy can help turn your painful wound into a scar.